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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A speech made in public in the tone and manner of an oration, uniting the expression of action to the propriety of pronunciation, in order to give the sentiment its full impression on the mind. It is used also in a derogatory sense; as when it is said, such a speech was mere declamation, it implies that it was deficient in point of reasoning, or had more sound than sense. DECLAMATION OF THE PULPIT. "The dignity and sanctity of the place, and the importance of the subject, require the preacher to exert the utmost powers of his voice, to produce a pronunciation that is perfectly distinct and harmonious, and that he observe a deportment and action which is expressive and graceful. The preacher should not roar like a common crier, and rend the ear with a voice like thunder; for such kind of declamation is not only without meaning and without persuasion, but highly incongruous with the meek and gentle spirit of the Gospel. He should likewise take particular care to avoid a monotony; his voice should rise from the beginning, as it were, by degrees, and its greatest strength should be exerted in the application.

Each inflexion of the voice should be adapted to the phrase and to the meaning of the words; and each remarkable expression should have its peculiar inflexion. The dogmatic requires a plain uniform tone of voice only, and the menaces of God's word demand a greater force than its promises and rewards; but the latter should not be pronounced in the soft tone of a flute, nor the former with the loud sound of a trumpet. The voice should still retain its natural tone in all its various inflexions. Happy is that preacher who has a voice that is at once strong, flexible, and harmonious. An air of complacency and benevolence, as well as devotion, should be constantly visible in the countenance of the preacher; but every appearance of affectation must be carefully avoided; for nothing is so disgustful to an audience as even the semblance of dissimulation. Eyes constantly rolling, turned towards heaven, and streaming with tears, rather denote a hypocrite than a man possessed of the real spirit of religion, and who feels the true import of what he preaches.

An air of affected devotion infallibly destroys the efficacy of all that the preacher can say, however just and important it may be. On the other hand, he must avoid every appearance of mirth or raillery, or of that cold unfeeling manner which is so apt to freeze the heart of his hearers. The body should in general be erect, and in a natural and easy attitude. The perpetual movement or contortion of the body has a ridiculous effect in the pulpit, and makes the figure of a preacher and a harlequin too similar; on the other hand, he ought not to remain constantly upright and motionless like a speaking statue. The motions of the hands give a strong expression to a discourse; but they should be decent, grave, noble, and expressive. The preacher who is incessantly in action, who is perpetually clasping his hands, or who menaces with a clenched fist, or counts his arguments on his fingers, will only excite mirth among his auditory. In a word, declamation is an art that the sacred orator should study with assiduity. The design of a sermon is to convince, to affect, and to persuade. The voice, the countenance, and the action, which are to produce the triple effect, are therefore objects to which the preacher should particularly apply himself."


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Declamation'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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